What manufacturers should know when seeking to formulate cost-effective, high-quality feeds.

The feed production process has evolved from mash feeding in the 18th century to production of high-quality pelleted feeds. One thing has, however, remained constant: the oversized contribution of feed to the overall expenses of animal production. Currently, feed accounts for up to 70% of total production expenses. With costs increasing every day, the cost of producing livestock is becoming almost unsustainable.

This reality is putting pressure on feed manufacturers to develop new formulations that can assist animal farmers in producing more with less feed. The solution to this problem is to find ways to minimize feed wastage, which is a common issue due to the high proportion of fibrous materials with low digestibility used in feed manufacturing.

Technology as a Solution

Thankfully, scientific innovation is developing solutions that can be embraced to overcome challenges with feed conversion. Near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopy has become particularly useful in determining variability in feed ingredients.

NIR measures how near-infrared light is reflected by a certain material and can detect the vibrations of organic molecules. Depending on the method of vibration, it can identify various components of a specific feed ingredient, such as protein, fat, and water levels. NIR technology, when used in conjunction with data management, automatic formulation, and process automation, can assist manufacturers in preventing problems related to over or under formulation. These issues often lead to the production of low-quality feeds that do not meet desired performance standards.

“If it’s overformulation, you could be saving costs because you’re putting more nutrients in the feed than is really required,” says Vinicius Chiappetta, Global Commercial Director at Cargill Digital Solutions.

“Or, if you put in more nutrients, this can also impact the digestibility of the animals, because there is a precise level of nutrients that they can absorb. So, even overformulating doesn’t mean that you are going to have a better performance on the farms. Or you can underformulate; if the nutrients come with a lower level of protein, for example, the feed is going to have lower levels of protein, and this is also going to impact the productivity at the farm.”

Recently, Cargill Animal Nutrition entered into a strategic partnership with Si-Ware Systems-owned NeoSpectra platform. This platform analyzes the nutrient content of feed and feed ingredients quickly and accurately, enhancing capabilities in the analysis of forages, feeds, and feed ingredients for farmers in North America.

“We are very excited to partner with NeoSpectra to bring this innovative nutrient analysis platform to the dairy industry,” stated Kristen Burkhardt, Cargill’s dairy marketing specialist.

“We are committed to providing our customers with the best quality feed to reach their goals, and this partnership will help us to continue to deliver on that promise with real-time, accurate insights,” he added.

Those in search of simpler technologies can try SCiO, a pocket-sized micro-spectrometer that analyzes feed in real time. It is also the world’s first NIR Spectrometer that fits in your pocket. Despite its size, the tool can help feed manufacturers and farmers get instant real-time nutritional analysis anywhere on the farm, in the silo, grain bin, feed mixer, or field.


Nutrigenomics is an advanced technology that can be helpful in optimizing feed formulations. This technology reveals the relationship between feed nutrients and gene expression, enabling the industry to identify feeds that can help animals reach their genetic potential by directly influencing the genes responsible for growth rate, meat quality, and disease prevention.

To optimize nutrient utilization, alltech recommends using a multi- enzyme complex that effectively breaks down the challenging components commonly present in feed such as non-starch polysaccharides.


For processors, enzymes are the future


As most raw materials have poor digestibility, enzymes serve an especially important role in the feed industry, thanks to their ability to break down nutrients. Hydrolytic enzymes are particularly popular because they aid the digestion and absorption of nutrients that are not easily available, or in removing antinutritional factors from the diet.


BASF Natupulse TS is one such enzyme that is available in the market. According to BASF, Natupulse TS contains the enzyme mannanase, which degrades non-starch polysaccharides (NSP) such as mannans. “Natupulse TS helps monogastric animals like poultry and swine to better digest nutrients – making animal protein production more sustainable. It particularly improves the nutrient digestibility of feeds containing raw materials with a high ß-mannan content: soybean meal or guar meal etc,” says BASF.


Alltech also has its own enzyme known as Bio-Mos, which has been shown to be effective in improving feed quality. “In a meta-analysis of laying hens, Alltech’s proprietary yeast mannan oligosaccharide, increased hen-day production and livability, while decreasing the feed conversion ratio (FCR),” Alltech says. “This improved performance implies that approximately 27 tonnes less feed would be required to produce 1,000 tonnes of eggs, equivalent to 5.6 hectares of land saved from soya cultivation.”


Because animal diets consist of multiple substrates, which contain a mix of anti-nutritional factors and inaccessible nutrients, it is crucial to utilize a product that offers multiple enzyme activities. Alltech, however, advises against using multiple single enzymes or a blended enzyme product, as this can lead to inefficiencies and non-performance results in feed. “Enzymes in a blend can compete for substrates and inhibit or inactivate each other. Enzymes produced in a single complex work in synergy with the animal’s digestive tract,” Alltech says.


To optimize nutrient utilization, Alltech recommends using a multi-enzyme complex that effectively breaks down the challenging components commonly present in poultry feed, such as non-starch polysaccharides (NSPs) and phytic acid. One such solution is Allzyme Spectrum, which has reportedly demonstrated efficacy in laboratory research, university trials, and commercial settings. “This extensive work has shown that Allzyme Spectrum can save 90 calories per kilogram of feed in non-organic poultry diets,” according to Alltech. “This efficiency gain provides flexibility in reformulation through the use of alternative raw materials, helping producers save money.”


Lowering mycotoxin levels in feeds is also another area that has demonstrated effectiveness. A recent meta-analysis of 25 broiler studies demonstrated the impact of mycotoxins on productivity, highlighting how the dietary inclusion of a yeast cell wall extract (YCWE) such as Mycosorb could ameliorate some of these impacts. The study found that across 100,000 broilers, mycotoxin consumption could increase emissions by 46.62 tonnes of CO2e. This increase is primarily attributed to poorer feed efficiency and higher bird mortality rates. Including YCWE during a mycotoxin challenge significantly improved both FCR and mortality rates.


Its time to consider alternative sources


With costs of traditional feeds rising, its time for feed millers to also consider using cheaper alternative sources. There is a wide range of sources that millers could choose from depending on the nutritional needs of target livestock.


Millers could for instance consider Plasma powder which is a highly digestible animal protein source that is used to improve feed palatability and gut health in livestock. Seaweeds could also provide another cheap alternative. Adoption could be as easy as seaweeds, which are already being used in livestock feed by coastal populations. Another advantage of using seaweeds is that they are typically abundant in potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus, as well as containing traces of micronutrients like iron, manganese, copper, cobalt, zinc, and selenium.


New studies also show that certain insects are highly suitable to be used as feed due to their high nutritional value and their natural inclusion in some livestock diets. Insect farming is gaining traction around the world as one of the key solutions to reducing waste in the environment and creating sustainable sources of animal feed, particularly for aquaculture. The black soldier fly larvae are especially popular in the insect category. Recently, Bühler and Entocycle, an insect technology company, have partnered to enhance the adoption of large-scale black soldier fly (BSF) farms. Their goal is to provide solutions and expertise to better serve customers in this segment.


A more novel solution is the use of egg powder in animal feeds. Studies show that adding egg powder to the feed of young animals, such as calves, can boost their immunity and also provide them with lecithin, an emulsifier that improves digestion and increases milk production in breastfeeding mothers. Egg powder is a sustainable alternative to vegetable protein in livestock feed as it has a long shelf-life, has a high concentration of protein, and reduces transport and storage costs.


The final word

 Feed costs skyrocketing is a reality that we cannot run away from. Harnessing low-hanging fruit in improving feed conversion ratios could, however, unlock a major breakthrough in taming feed costs. Through the utilization of various strategies, such as the use of NIR to add precision to feed formulation and enzymes to improve digestibility, millers have demonstrated the ability to make the same amount of feed deliver more at the farm level. In addition to helping farmers save on costs, these technologies are helping minimize wastage which in all honesty is good for the planet.

Having read all the above, one question remains: Have you optimized your feed formulation process yet?

This feature appeared in the June 2023 issue of Healthcare Middle East & Africa. You can read this and the entire magazine HERE